MANILA, Philippines – In one of the most crucial games of the UAAP Season 81 elimination round, there is only one number that matters.
That's because whoever wins between the De La Salle Green Archers and the UP Fighting Maroons today, November 14, will get the third seed and face the twice-to-beat Adamson Soaring Falcons.
Both squads have the same goal and the pressure is equally as high.
If UP (7-6) wins, La Salle (8-5) slips down to the fourth seed with a real chance to still be eliminated in case FEU (7-6) wins over Adamson (10-3) and forces a do-or-die playoff.
This is why the Archers also need to win to simply clinch the third seed for themselves and let UP fend off FEU for the last spot.
Whoever guides a team to the promised land, however, will be up to which star shines brightest.
Juan Gomez de Liaño has been the talk of the town since the beginning of the season. Highlight dunks, triple-double tendencies, smooth step-back jumpers, you name it, he can do it.
But now more than ever, it's time for the league's leading assister (5.6 assists per game) and seventh-best scorer (15.4 points per game) to solidify that he has more than just a pretty game.
While Aljun Melecio doesn't have the same physical gifts and all-around skills that Juan GDL has, he makes up for it with pure heart and a deadly quick fuse before he explodes for a barrage of tough threes.
Despite key losses to their rotation early and often in the season, Melecio has helped keep them afloat and is now the league's fifth-best scorer at 15.6 points per game.
Overall, this big game will hinge on who performs the little things well.
For instance, both teams are notably bad from the free throw line. La Salle is running sixth with just a 64.3% clip while UP has been the worst all season long at just 58.4%.
However, UP has countered that with a consistent league-best shot selection, coming in at 44.8%. La Salle is just fifth at a 39.2% clip.
Sharing the ball has also been a problem for the guard-led La Salle, who is averaging a league-worst 13.3 assists a game. UP is the complete opposite, dishing more than anyone else at 19.8 dimes per night.
The Archers however, have a notably stingy defense thanks to their platoon of big men. So far, La Salle only allows 68.8 points against them – second in the league. UP is way more porous, allowing 77.2 markers from their opponents on average.
Clearly, both teams have some very pronounced strengths and some easily exploitable weaknesses. Whoever patches the low points up will surely get the breaks of the game, and of course, the third seed. – Rappler.com